The Mississippian Home
Between about 700-1200 CE, a group of Indigenous tribes—now commonly referred to as Mississippians—built a vast trading network across the Mississippi Valley and American Southeast. The hubs for this network were communities built around earthen mounds, potentially housing thousands of people. The largest was Cahokia, located near present-day Collinsville. At its peak between 1000-1150, as many as 40,000 people lived there and in the surrounding communities, making it one of the largest cities in the world.
Women ran Cahokian homes cooperatively. Their houses often surrounded plazas and courtyards, indicating they traversed the lines between households easily, and nearby residents intermingled with and supported each other. Thus, the people of Cahokia likely viewed their homes as extending outside their walls to the broader community. In doing so, they provide one of our earliest glimpses of people conceptualizing living spaces in the Illinois country.
A pot from a Cahokia home recovered during an archaeological dig.
Courtesy of the Illinois State Museum